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—  City  —
City of Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver as seen from the southern shore of False Creek


Coat of arms

Motto: "By Sea, Land, and Air We Prosper"
Location of Vancouver within the Greater Vancouver Regional District in British Columbia, Canada
Coordinates: 49°15′N 123°6′W / 49.25°N 123.1°W / 49.25; -123.1
Country  Canada
Province  British Columbia
Region Lower Mainland
Regional District Metro Vancouver
Incorporated 1886
 - Mayor Gregor Robertson (Vision Vancouver)
 - City Council
 - City 114.67 km2 (44.3 sq mi)
 - Metro 2,878.52 km2 (1,111.4 sq mi)
Elevation 2 m (7 ft)
Population (2006 Census)[1]
 - City 578,041 (8th)
 Density 5,335/km2 (13,817.6/sq mi)
 Metro 2,116,581 (3rd)
 - Demonym Vancouverite
Time zone PST (UTC−8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
Postal code span V5K to V6Z
Area code(s) 604, 778
NTS Map 092G03
Website City of Vancouver

Vancouver (pronounced /vænˈkuːvər/) is a coastal city located in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is named for British Captain George Vancouver, who explored the area in the 1790s. The name Vancouver itself originates from the Dutch "van Coevorden", denoting somebody from Coevorden, a city in the Netherlands.[2]

The largest metropolitan area in Western Canada, Vancouver ranks third largest in the country and the city proper ranks eighth.[3][4] According to the 2006 census Vancouver had a population of just over 578,000[1] and its Census Metropolitan Area exceeded 2.1 million people.[1] Its residents are ethnically and linguistically diverse; 52% do not speak English as their first language.[5][6]

Logging sawmills established in 1867 in the area known as Gastown became the nucleus around which the townsite grew, and Vancouver was incorporated as a city in 1886. By 1887, the transcontinental railway was extended to the city to take advantage of its large natural seaport, which soon became a vital link in a trade route between the Orient, Eastern Canada, and London.[7][8] The Port Metro Vancouver is now the busiest and largest in Canada, as well as the fourth largest port (by tonnage) in North America.[9] While forestry remains its largest industry, Vancouver is well known as an urban centre surrounded by nature, making tourism its second largest industry.[10] It also is the third largest film production centre in North America after Los Angeles and New York City, earning it the nickname Hollywood North.[11][12]

Vancouver has ranked highly in worldwide "livable city" rankings for more than a decade according to business magazine assessments.[13][14] It has hosted many international conferences and events, including the 1976 United Nations Conference on Human Settlements and the 1986 World Exposition on Transportation and Communication. The 2010 Winter Olympics and 2010 Winter Paralympics were held in Vancouver and nearby Whistler, a resort community 125 km (78 miles) north of the city.[15]




Indigenous peoples and European exploration

Archaeological records indicate the presence of Aboriginal people in the Vancouver area from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.[16][17] The city is located in the traditional territories of Skwxwú7mesh, Xwméthkwyiem, and Tseil-waututh peoples of the Coast Salish group.[18] They had villages in various parts of present-day Vancouver, such as Stanley Park, False Creek, Kitsilano, Point Grey and near the mouth of the Fraser River.[17]

Men standing and sitting around two tables, facing the camera. A large tent behind them has a wooden sign that reads "City Hall"
A portrait of the first Vancouver City Council meeting after the 1886 fire. The tent shown was on the east side of the 100 block Carrall.[19]

The first European to explore the coastline of present-day Point Grey and parts of Burrard Inlet was José María Narváez of Spain, in 1791, although Samuel Bawlf contends that Francis Drake may have visited the area in 1579.[20] George Vancouver explored the inner harbour of Burrard Inlet in 1792 and gave various places British names.[21]

The explorer and North West Company trader Simon Fraser and his crew were the first known Europeans to set foot on the site of the present-day city. In 1808, they travelled from the east down the Fraser River, perhaps as far as Point Grey, near the University of British Columbia.[22]

Early growth

The Fraser Gold Rush of 1858 brought over 25,000 men, mainly from California, to nearby New Westminster (founded February 14, 1859) on the Fraser River, on their way to the BC interior, bypassing what would become Vancouver.[23][24][25] Vancouver is among British Columbia's youngest cities;[26] the first European settlement in what is now Vancouver was not until 1862 at McLeery's Farm on the Fraser River, just east of the ancient village of Musqueam in what is now Marpole. A sawmill established at Moodyville (now the City of North Vancouver) in 1863, began the city's long relationship with logging. It was quickly followed by mills owned by Captain Edward Stamp on the south shore of the inlet. Stamp, who had begun lumbering in the Port Alberni area, first attempted to run a mill at Brockton Point, but difficult currents and reefs forced the relocation of the operation to a point near the foot of Gore Street. This mill, known as the Hastings Mill, became the nucleus around which Vancouver formed. The mill's central role in the city waned after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in the 1880s. It nevertheless remained important to the local economy until it closed in the 1920s.[27]

The settlement which came to be called Gastown grew up quickly around the original makeshift tavern established by "Gassy" Jack Deighton in 1867 on the edge of the Hastings Mill property.[26][28] In 1870, the colonial government surveyed the settlement and laid out a townsite, renamed "Granville" in honour of the then-British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Granville. This site, with its natural harbour, was eventually selected as the terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway to the disappointment of Port Moody, New Westminster and Victoria, all of which had vied to be the railhead. A railway was among the inducements for British Columbia to join the Confederation in 1871, but the Pacific Scandal and arguments over the use of Chinese labour delayed construction until the 1880s.[29]

Black-and-white illustration of Vancouver. Large ships fill the harbor in the south; the town, filling the center of the map, is bounded by trees on the left and top sides. Bridges span the middle-top body of water.
Panorama of Vancouver, 1898.


The City of Vancouver was incorporated on 6 April 1886, the same year that the first transcontinental train arrived. CPR president William Van Horne arrived in Port Moody to establish the CPR terminus recommended by Henry John Cambie, and gave the city its name in honour of George Vancouver.[26] The Great Vancouver Fire on 13 June 1886, razed the entire city. The Vancouver Fire Department was established that year and the city quickly rebuilt.[27] Vancouver's population grew from a settlement of 1,000 people in 1881 to over 20,000 by the turn of the century and 100,000 by 1911.[30]

Vancouver merchants outfitted prospectors bound for the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898.[23] One of those merchants, Charles Woodward, had opened the first Woodward's store at what is now Georgia and Main Streets in 1892 and, along with Spencer's and the Hudson's Bay department stores, formed the core of the city's retail sector for decades.[31]

The economy of early Vancouver was dominated by large companies such as the CPR, which provided capital for the rapid development of the new city. While some manufacturing did develop, natural resources became the basis for Vancouver's economy. The resource sector was initially based on logging and later on exports moving through the seaport, where commercial traffic constituted the largest economic sector in Vancouver by the 1930s.[32]

20th century

The dominance of the economy by big business was accompanied by an often militant labour movement. The first major sympathy strike was in 1903 when railway employees struck against the CPR for union recognition. Labour leader Frank Rogers was killed by CPR police while picketing at the docks, becoming the movement's first martyr in British Columbia.[33] The rise of industrial tensions throughout the province led to Canada's first general strike in 1918, at the Cumberland coal mines on Vancouver Island.[34] Following a lull in the 1920s, the strike wave peaked in 1935 when unemployed men flooded the city to protest conditions in the relief camps run by the military in remote areas throughout the province.[35][36] After two tense months of daily and disruptive protesting, the relief camp strikers decided to take their grievances to the federal government and embarked on the On-to-Ottawa Trek,[36] but their protest was put down by force. The workers were arrested near Mission and interned in work camps for the duration of the Depression.[37]

Other social movements, such as the first-wave feminist, moral reform, and temperance movements were also influential in Vancouver's development. Mary Ellen Smith, a Vancouver suffragist and prohibitionist, became the first woman elected to a provincial legislature in Canada in 1918.[38] Alcohol prohibition began in the First World War and lasted until 1921, when the provincial government established control over alcohol sales, a practice still in place today.[39] Canada's first drug law came about following an inquiry conducted by the federal Minister of Labour and future Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. King was sent to investigate damages claims resulting from a riot when the Asiatic Exclusion League led a rampage through Chinatown and Japantown. Two of the claimants were opium manufacturers, and after further investigation, King found that white women were reportedly frequenting opium dens as well as Chinese men. A federal law banning the manufacture, sale, and importation of opium for non-medicinal purposes was soon passed based on these revelations.[40]

Amalgamation with Point Grey and South Vancouver gave the city its final contours not long before it became the third largest metropolis in the country. As of 1 January 1929, the population of the enlarged Vancouver was 228,193 and it filled the entire peninsula between the Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River.[41]


Officially designated neighbourhoods of Vancouver (local and urban usage varies)

Located on the Burrard Peninsula, Vancouver lies between Burrard Inlet to the north and the Fraser River to the south. The Strait of Georgia, to the west, is shielded from the Pacific Ocean by Vancouver Island. The city has an area of 114 km2 (44 sq mi), including both flat and hilly ground, and is in the Pacific Time Zone (UTC−8) and the Pacific Maritime Ecozone.[42] Until the city's naming in 1885, "Vancouver" referred to Vancouver Island, and it remains a common misconception that the city is located on the island. The island and the city are both named after Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver, though the city of Vancouver, Washington, on the north bank of the Columbia River opposite Portland, Oregon, is only indirectly named for Captain Vancouver; that city’s name was adapted from Fort Vancouver, which had been the headquarters of the Columbia District of the Hudson's Bay Company and the largest settlement in the Pacific Northwest until the Oregon Treaty of 1846.

A green grassy hill dotted with trees slopes down to a paved area with benches. Beyond lies water, docks, and a yacht, and skyscrapers.
Stanley Park with the downtown buildings in the background

Vancouver has one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park, which covers 404.9 hectares (1001 acres).[43] The North Shore Mountains dominate the cityscape, and on a clear day scenic vistas include the snow-capped volcano Mount Baker in the state of Washington to the southeast, Vancouver Island across the Strait of Georgia to the west and southwest, and the Bowen Island to the northwest.[44]


A sidewalk lined with lights and palm trees. Opposite the street are benches where people sit and watch the bay. In the distance are high-rise buildings, including one with a tree growing on its roof.
Windmill palms are an indicator of the city's temperate climate in comparison to the rest of Canada. These are shown near English Bay.

The vegetation in the Vancouver area was originally temperate rain forest, consisting of conifers with scattered pockets of maple and alder, and large areas of swampland (even in upland areas, due to poor drainage).[45] The conifers were a typical coastal British Columbia mix of Douglas-fir, Western red cedar and Western Hemlock.[46] The area is thought to have the largest trees of these species on the British Columbia Coast. Only in Seattle's Elliott Bay did the size of trees rival those of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. The largest trees in Vancouver's old-growth forest were in the Gastown area, where the first logging occurred, and on the southern slopes of False Creek and English Bay, especially around Jericho Beach. The forest in Stanley Park was logged between the 1860s and 1880s, and evidence of old-fashioned logging techniques such as springboard notches can still be seen there.[47]

Many plants and trees growing throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland were imported from other parts of the continent and from points across the Pacific. Various species of palm trees grow in the city, as do large numbers of other exotic trees such as the monkey puzzle tree, the Japanese Maple, and various flowering exotics, such as magnolias, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Some rhododendrons have grown to immense sizes, as have other species imported from harsher climates in Eastern Canada or Europe. The native Douglas Maple can also attain a tremendous size. Many of the city's streets are lined with flowering varieties of Japanese cherry trees donated from the 1930s onward by the government of Japan. These flower for several weeks in early spring each year. Other streets are lined with flowering chestnut, horse chestnut and other decorative shade trees.[48]


Vancouver's climate is temperate by Canadian standards and is usually classified as Oceanic or Marine west coast (Köppen climate classification Cfb). The summer months are typically dry, often resulting in moderate drought conditions, usually in July and August. In contrast, the rest of the year is rainy, especially between October and March.

Annual precipitation as measured at Vancouver Airport in Richmond averages 1,199 millimetres (47.2 in), though this varies dramatically throughout the metro area due to the topography and is considerably higher in the downtown area. In winter, a majority of days (again at Vancouver Airport) receive measurable precipitation. Summer months are drier and sunnier with moderate temperatures, tempered by sea breezes. The daily maximum averages 22 °C (72 °F) in July and August, with highs occasionally reaching 30 °C (86 °F).[49] The highest temperature ever recorded was 34.4 °C (93.9 °F) on 30 July 2009.[50][51] On average, snow falls on eleven days per year, with three days receiving 6 centimetres (2.4 in) or more. Average yearly snowfall is 48.2 centimetres (19.0 in) but typically does not remain on the ground for long.[52] Winters in Greater Vancouver are the fourth mildest of Canadian cities after nearby Victoria, Nanaimo and Duncan, all on Vancouver Island.[53] Vancouver has daily minimum temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F) for an average of 46 days per year and below −10 °C (14.0 °F) on two days per year. On average, 4.5 days a year have temperatures staying below freezing.

Climate data for Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, BC
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.3
Average high °C (°F) 6.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.3
Average low °C (°F) 0.5
Record low °C (°F) -17.8
Precipitation mm (inches) 153.6
Sunshine hours 60.4 84.6 134.1 182.4 230.7 229.1 294.5 267.9 199.1 124.8 64.3 56.1 1,928
Source: Environment Canada[52] May 2009


View of a blue-green bay, filled with small boats. On the left shore are docks; the beach on the right turns to buildings.
A view of English Bay from the Burrard Bridge

Urban planning

At 5,335 people per km2 (13,817.6 people per mi2) in 2006, Vancouver is the third most densely populated large city in North America after New York City and San Francisco.[citation needed] Urban planning in Vancouver is characterized by high-rise residential and mixed-use development in urban centres, as an alternative to sprawl.[54] This has been credited in contributing to the city's high rankings in livability.

This approach originated in the late 1950s, when city planners began to encourage the building of high-rise residential towers in Vancouver's West End,[55] subject to strict requirements for setbacks and open space to protect sight lines and preserve green space. The success of these dense but livable neighbourhoods led to the redevelopment of urban industrial sites, such as North False Creek and Coal Harbour, beginning in the mid-1980s. The result is a compact urban core that has gained international recognition for its "high amenity and 'livable' development."[56] More recently, the city has been debating "ecodensity"—ways in which "density, design, and land use can contribute to environmental sustainability, affordability, and livability."[57]

High-resolution panorama of a large, brightly-lit skyline at night. A mountain range lies in the background, and a bridge is visible on the left-hand side of the panorama.
A high resolution panorama of Vancouver with the mountains behind, looking roughly north from the vicinity of Broadway and Oak Street. The bridge on the left of the image is the Granville Street Bridge.


Ground-level view of a street surrounded by numerous high-rise buildings. Along the sides of the road are small trees.

Notable buildings within the city include Christ Church Cathedral, the Hotel Vancouver, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. There are several modern buildings in the downtown area, including the Harbour Centre, Vancouver Law Courts and surrounding plaza known as Robson Square (designed by Arthur Erickson) and the Vancouver Library Square (designed by Moshe Safdie), reminiscent of the Colosseum in Rome.

The original BC Hydro headquarters building at Nelson and Burrard Streets is a modernist high-rise, now converted into the Electra condominiums. Also notable is the "concrete waffle" of the MacMillan-Bloedel building on the north-east corner of the Georgia and Thurlow intersection. A prominent addition to the city's landscape is the giant tent-frame Canada Place, the former Canada Pavilion from the 1986 World Exposition, which includes part of the Convention Centre, a Cruise Ship Terminal and the Pan-Pacific Hotel. Two modern buildings that define the southern skyline are the city hall and the Centennial Pavilion of Vancouver Hospital, both designed by Townley and Matheson in 1936 and 1958 respectively.[58][59]

A collection of Edwardian buildings in the city's old downtown core were, in their day, the tallest commercial buildings in the British Empire. These were, in succession, the Carter-Cotton Building (former home of the Vancouver Province newspaper), the Dominion Building (1907) and the Sun Tower (1911), the former two at Cambie and Hastings Streets and the latter at Beatty and Pender Streets. Another notable Edwardian building in the city is the Vancouver Art Gallery building, designed by Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the provincial Legislature and the highly decorated original Hotel Vancouver, which was torn down after WWII due to the completion of the new Hotel Vancouver a block away.[60]

The Sun Tower's cupola was finally exceeded as the Empire's tallest commercial building by the elaborate Art Deco Marine Building in the 1920s.[61] Inspired by New York City's Chrysler Building, the Marine Building is known for its elaborate ceramic tile facings and brass-gilt doors and elevators, which make it a favourite location for movie shoots.[62] Topping the list of the tallest buildings in Vancouver is Living Shangri-La at 201 metres (659 ft)[63] and 62 storeys. The second tallest building in Vancouver is One Wall Centre at 150 metres (491 ft)[64] and 48 storeys, followed closely by the Shaw Tower at 149 metres (489 ft).[64]


Chinese New Year Parade, 2007

Vancouver has been called a "city of neighbourhoods," each with a distinct character and ethnic mix.[65] People of English, Scottish, and Irish origins were historically the largest ethnic groups in the city,[66] and elements of British and Irish society and culture are still visible in some areas, particularly South Granville and Kerrisdale. Germans are the next-largest European ethnic group in Vancouver and were a leading force in the city's society and economy until the rise of anti-German sentiment with the outbreak of World War I in 1914.[8] The Chinese are by far the largest visible ethnic group in the city, and Vancouver has a very diverse Chinese-speaking community, with several dialects represented, including Cantonese and Mandarin.[27][67] Neighbourhoods with distinct ethnic commercial areas include the Punjabi Market, Little Italy, Greektown, and (formerly) Japantown.

In the 1980s, an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong in anticipation of its transfer from the United Kingdom to China, combined with an increase in immigrants from mainland China and previous immigrants from Taiwan, established in Vancouver one of the highest concentrations of ethnic Chinese residents in North America.[68] This arrival of Asian immigrants continued a tradition of immigration from around the world that had established Vancouver as the second most popular destination for immigrants in Canada (after Toronto).[69] Other significant Asian ethnic groups in Vancouver are South Asian (mostly Punjabi, usually referred to as Indo-Canadian), Vietnamese, Filipino, Indonesian, Korean, Cambodians and Japanese. Despite increases in Latin American immigration to Vancouver in the 1980s and 90s, immigration from Latin America has been comparatively low, and African immigration has been similarly stagnant (3.6% and 3.3% of total immigrant population, respectively.)[70] In 1981, less than 7% of the population belonged to a visible minority group.[71] By 2008, this proportion had grown to 51%.[72]

Prior to the Hong Kong diaspora of the 1990s, the largest non-British ethnic groups in the city were Irish and German, followed by Scandinavian, Italian, Ukrainian and Chinese, most of the latter being descended from immigrants from Taishan (Toi Shan) in Guangdong. From the mid 1950s until the 1980s, many Portuguese immigrants came to Vancouver and the city now has the third-largest Portuguese population in Canada after Toronto and Montreal. Eastern Europeans, including Yugoslavs, Russians, Czechs, Poles and Hungarians began immigrating after the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe after World War II.[8] Greek immigration increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s during the Dictatorship of the Colonels in Greece, with most settling in the Kitsilano area. In addition to its immigration population, Vancouver has an aboriginal community of about 11,000 people.[73]

Vancouver has a large gay community,[74] and British Columbia was the second Canadian jurisdiction (after Ontario) to make same-sex marriage legal.[75] The downtown area around Davie Street, known as Davie Village, is the centre of the gay community.[76] Vancouver has one of the country's largest annual gay pride parades.[77]

Visible Minorities 2006 Census[78]
Visible minority n.i.e. Arab Black West Asian Multiple visible minority Latin American Korean Japanese Southeast Asian Filipino South Asian Chinese
Population 990 1,875 5,290 5,355 7,320 8,225 8,780 9,730 14,850 28,605 32,515 168,215
Percent 0.2% 0.3% 0.9% 0.9% 1.3% 1.4% 1.5% 1.7% 2.6% 5.0% 5.7% 29.4%
Canadian Census Population Growth by decade[79][80]
Year 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2006
Vancouver 13,709 26,133 100,401 117,217 246,593 275,353 344,833 384,522 426,256 414,281 471,644 545,671 578,041
Greater Vancouver 21,887 42,926 164,020 232,597 347,709 393,898 562,462 790,741 1,028,334 1,169,831 1,602,590 1,986,965 2,116,581


With its location on the Pacific Rim and at the western terminus of Canada's transcontinental highway and rail routes, Vancouver is one of the nation's largest industrial centres.[44] The Port of Vancouver, Canada's largest and most diversified, does more than C$75 billion in trade with over 130 different economies annually. Port activities generate $10.5 billion in gross domestic product and $22 billion in economic output.[81] Vancouver is also the headquarters of forest product and mining companies. In recent years, Vancouver has become an increasingly important centre for software development, biotechnology and a vibrant film industry.[82]

The city's scenic location makes it a major tourist destination. Visitors come for the city's gardens, Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, VanDusen and the mountains, ocean, forest and parklands surrounding the city. Each year over a million people pass through Vancouver on cruise ship vacations, often bound for Alaska.[82]

Vancouver is amongst the most least affordable cities in which to live in the nation, with the highest housing prices in Canada. Several 2006 studies rank Vancouver as having the least affordable housing in Canada, ranking 13th least affordable in the world, up from 15th in 2005.[83][84][85] The city has adopted various strategies to reduce housing costs, including cooperative housing, legalized secondary suites, increased density and smart growth. A significant number of the city's residents are affluent, a perception reinforced by the number of luxury vehicles on city streets and cost of real estate. As of mid-2007, the average two-storey home in Vancouver sells for $757,750, compared with $467,742 in Toronto and $322,853 in Calgary, the second and third most expensive cities in Canada.[86] Housing prices have dropped from a peak in 2008, with the average residential sales price for 2009 forecast to be down 9%. The decline in prices has attracted new buyers to the market, however, and prices are expected to stabilize.[87]

Since the 1990s development of high-rise condominiums in the downtown peninsula has been financed, in part, by an inflow of capital from Hong Kong immigrants due to the former colony's 1997 handover to the PRC.[citation needed] Such development has clustered in the Yaletown and Coal Harbour districts and around many of the SkyTrain stations to the east of the downtown.[82] The city's selection to co-host the 2010 Winter Olympics has also been a major influence on economic development. Concern has been expressed that Vancouver's increasing homelessness problem may be exacerbated by the Olympics because owners of single room occupancy hotels, which house many of the city's lowest income residents, have begun converting their properties in order to attract higher income residents and tourists.[88] Another significant international event held in Vancouver, the 1986 World Exposition, received over 20 million visitors and added $3.7 billion to the Canadian economy. Some still-standing Vancouver landmarks, including the SkyTrain public transit system and Canada Place, were built as part of the exposition.[89]


Vancouver, unlike other British Columbia municipalities, is incorporated under the Vancouver Charter.[90] The legislation, passed in 1953, supersedes the Vancouver Incorporation Act, 1921 and grants the city more and different powers than other communities possess under BC's Municipalities Act.

The civic government has been dominated by the centre-right Non-Partisan Association (NPA) since the Second World War, albeit with some significant centre-left interludes until 2008.[27] The NPA fractured over the issue of drug policy in 2002, facilitating a landslide victory for the Coalition of Progressive Electors on a harm reduction platform. Subsequently, North America's first safe injection site was opened for the significant number of intravenous heroin users in the city.

Vancouver is governed by the ten-member Vancouver City Council, a nine-member School Board, and a seven-member Parks Board, all elected for three-year terms through an at-large system. Historically, in all levels of government, the more affluent west side of Vancouver has voted along conservative or liberal lines while the eastern side of the city has voted along left-wing lines.[91] This was reaffirmed with the results of the 2005 provincial election and the 2006 federal election.

A white flag with multicolored, intersecting rings flies in front of a tall building with illuminated red clocks near the top and capped with a red-and-white Canadian flag.
Vancouver City Hall with the 2010 Winter Olympics Flag

Though polarized, a political consensus has emerged in Vancouver around a number of issues. Protection of urban parks, a focus on the development of rapid transit as opposed to a freeway system, a harm reduction approach to illegal drug use, and a general concern about community-based development are examples of policies that have come to have broad support across the political spectrum in Vancouver.

In the 2008 Municipal Election campaign, NPA incumbent mayor Sam Sullivan was ousted as mayoral candidate by the party in a close vote, which instated Peter Ladner as the new mayoral candidate for the NPA. Gregor Robertson, a former MLA for Vancouver-Fairview and head of Happy Planet, was the mayoral candidate for Vision Vancouver, the other main contender. Vision Vancouver candidate Gregor Robertson defeated Ladner by a considerable margin, nearing 20,000 votes. The balance of power was significantly shifted to Vision Vancouver, which held 7 of the 10 spots for councillor. Of the remaining three, COPE received 2 and the NPA 1. For park commissioner, 4 spots went to Vision Vancouver, 1 to the Green Party, 1 to COPE, and 1 to NPA. For school trustee, there were 4 Vision Vancouver seats, 3 COPE seats, and 2 NPA seats.[92]

Provincial and federal representation

In the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Vancouver is represented by 11 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), which includes Gordon Campbell, the current Premier. There are currently six seats held by the BC Liberal Party and five by the BC New Democratic Party.[93]

In the Canadian House of Commons, Vancouver is represented by five Members of Parliament. In the 2004 federal elections, the Liberal Party of Canada won four seats and the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) one. In the 2006 federal elections, all the same Members of Parliament were re-elected. However, on 6 February 2006, David Emerson of Vancouver Kingsway defected to the Conservative Party, giving the Conservatives one seat in Vancouver. In the 2008 federal election, the NDP took the Vancouver Kingsway seat vacated by Emerson, giving the NDP two seats to the Liberals' three.[94][95]


While most of the Lower Mainland is policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's "E" Division, Vancouver operates the Vancouver Police Department, with a strength of 1,174 sworn members and an operating budget of $149 million in 2005.[96][97][98] Over 16% of the city's budget was spent on police protection in 2005.[99]

The Vancouver Police Department's operational divisions include a bicycle squad, a marine squad, and a dog squad. It also has a mounted squad, used primarily to patrol Stanley Park and occasionally the Downtown Eastside and West End, as well as for crowd control.[100] The police work in conjunction with civilian and volunteer run Community Police Centres.[101] In 2006, the police department established its own Counter Terrorism Unit. In 2005, a new transit police force, the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service (now South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service), was established with full police powers.

Although it is illegal, Vancouver police generally do not arrest people for possessing small amounts of marijuana.[102] In 2000 the Vancouver Police Department established a specialized drug squad, "Growbusters," to carry out an aggressive campaign against the city's estimated 4,000 hydroponic marijuana growing operations (or grow-ops) in residential areas.[103] As with other law enforcement campaigns targeting marijuana this initiative has been sharply criticized.[104]

As of 2008, Vancouver had the seventh highest crime rate, dropping 3 spots since 2005, among Canada's 27 census metropolitan areas.[105] However, as with other Canadian cities, the over-all crime rate has been falling "dramatically."[106] Vancouver's property crime rate is particularly high, ranking among the highest for major North American cities.[107] But even property crime dropped 10.5% between 2004 and 2005, according to the Vancouver Police.[97] Metro Vancouver has the highest rate of gun-related violent crime of any major metropolitan region in Canada, according to a 2006 Statistics Canada study. There were 45.3 violent offences involving guns for every 100,000 people in Metro Vancouver, slightly higher than the Toronto CMA at 40.4 but far above the national average of 27.5.[108] A series of gang-related incidents in early 2009 escalated into what police have dubbed a gang war. Vancouver plays host to special events such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, the Clinton-Yeltsin Summit or the Symphony of Fire fireworks show that require significant policing. The 1994 Stanley Cup riot overwhelmed police and injured as many as 200 people.[109]


Vancouver is the location of the Canadian Forces Land Forces Western Area headquarters of the 39 Canadian Brigade Group, located at Jericho.[110] Local primary reserve units include The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own), based at the Seaforth Armoury and the Beatty Street Drill Hall, respectively, and the 15th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery.[111] The Naval Reserve Unit HMCS Discovery is based on Deadman's Island in Stanley Park.[112] RCAF Station Jericho Beach, the first air base in Canada, was taken over by the Canadian Army in 1947 when sea planes were replaced by long-range aircraft. Most of the base facilities were transferred to the City of Vancouver in 1969 and the area renamed "Jericho Park".[113]


The Vancouver School Board enrolls more than 110,000 students over its elementary, secondary, and post secondary institutions, making it the second largest school district in the province.[114][115] The district administers about 74 elementary schools, 17 elementary annexes, 18 secondary schools, 7 adult education centres, 2 Vancouver Learn Network schools, all which include 18 french immersion, a Mandarin bilingual, a fine arts school, gifted, and Montessori.[114] More than 46 independent schools of a wide variety are also eligible for partial provincial funding and educate approximately 10% of students in the city.[116]

Greater Vancouver is home to two major public universities, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), where more than 80,000 undergraduates, graduates, and professional students enrolled in 2008.[117][118] In 2006, UBC was ranked 27th best university in the world by Newsweek magazine, and SFU ranked as the best comprehensive university in Canada by Maclean’s University Rankings in 2009.[119][120]

The British Columbia Institute of Technology, which provides polytechnic education, Vancouver Community College, and Langara College are publicly funded college-level institutions, and are augmented by private institutions, and other colleges in the surrounding areas of Metro Vancouver that provide career, trade, and university-transfer programs, notably Douglas College and Capilano University. The Emily Carr University of Art and Design grants certificates, diplomas, and degrees in art and design, while the Vancouver Film School provides a one-year curriculum in film production.[121][122]

International students and ESL students have been significant in the enrollment of these public and private institutions. The Vancouver School Board reported for its 2008/2009 year that 53% of its students spoke a language other than English at home.[115]

Arts and culture

Film and theatre

Prominent theatre companies in Vancouver include the Arts Club Theatre Company and Vancouver TheatreSports League on Granville Island, the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, and Bard on the Beach. Smaller companies include Touchstone Theatre, Studio 58, Carousel Theatre, and the United Players of Vancouver. Theatre Under the Stars produces shows in the summer at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. In addition, Vancouver holds an annual Fringe Festival.

The Vancouver International Film Festival, which runs for two weeks each September, shows over 350 films and is one of the larger film festivals in North America. The associated Vancity Theatre runs independent non-commercial films throughout the rest of the year, as do the Pacific Cinematheque, the Festival Cinemas theatres, and the Hollywood and Rio theatres.


In the Kitsilano district are the Vancouver Maritime Museum, and the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre. The Museum of Anthropology at UBC is a leading museum of Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations culture, and the Vancouver Museum is the largest civic museum in Canada. A more interactive museum is Science World. The city also features a diverse collection of Public Art.

The Vancouver Art Gallery has a permanent collection of nearly 10,000 items and is the home of a significant number of works by Emily Carr.[123]


Musical contributions from Vancouver include performers of classical, folk and popular music. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is the professional orchestra based in the city. The Vancouver Opera is a major opera company in the city.

The city produced a number of notable punk rock bands, including the pioneering hardcore band D.O.A.. Other early Vancouver punk bands included the Subhumans, the Young Canadians, the Pointed Sticks, Active Dog, The Modernettes, UJ3RK5, I and Braineater.[124] When alternative rock became popular in the 1990s, several Vancouver groups rose to prominence, including 54-40, Odds, Moist, the Matthew Good Band and Econoline Crush. Recent successful Vancouver bands include Gob and Stabilo. Today, Vancouver is home to a number of popular independent bands such as The New Pornographers, Destroyer and independent labels including Nettwerk and Mint. Vancouver also produced influential metal band Strapping Young Lad and pioneering electro-industrial bands Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly; the latter's Bill Leeb is better known for founding ambient pop super-group Delerium. Other popular musical artists who made their mark from Vancouver include Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, Heart, Prism, Trooper, Chilliwack, Payola$, Images in Vogue, Michael Buble, Marianas Trench and Spirit of the West.[125]

Larger musical performances are usually held at venues such as GM Place, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, BC Place Stadium or the Pacific Coliseum, while smaller acts are held at places such as the Plaza of Nations, the Commodore Ballroom, the Orpheum Theatre and the Vogue Theatre (currently closed). The Vancouver Folk Music Festival and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival showcase music in their respective genres from around the world.

Vancouver nightlife; Nelson and Granville Street

Vancouver's Chinese population has produced several Cantopop stars. Similarly, various Indo-Canadian artists and actors have a profile in Bollywood or other aspects of India's entertainment industry.


For many years, nightlife in Vancouver had been somewhat restricted by early closing times for bars and night clubs, and a reluctance by authorities to allow for further development. Since 2003, however, the City of Vancouver has experimented with later closing hours and relaxed regulations, and an effort has been made to develop the Downtown core further as an entertainment district, especially on and around Granville Street.[126]

Quality and cost of living

Vancouver has been ranked one of the most livable cities in the world for more than a decade.[14] In contrast, according to Forbes, Vancouver had the 6th most overpriced real estate market in the world and was second highest in North America after Los Angeles in 2007.[127] Vancouver has also been ranked Canada's second most expensive city to live in after Toronto and the 89th most expensive globally.[128] In the same year, Vancouver was ranked as the 10th cleanest city in the world by Forbes.[129]

Vancouver has an adult obesity rate of 12% compared to the Canadian average of 23%. 51% of Vancouverites are overweight, making it the fourth thinnest city in Canada after Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax.[130][131]


Vancouver is a major film and television production centre. Nicknamed Hollywood North, the city has been used as a film making location for nearly a century, beginning with the Edison Manufacturing Company.[132] In 2008, the BC Film Commission reported more than 260 productions were filmed in Vancouver making it the third largest film centre in North America, after Los Angeles and New York City, and second to Los Angeles in television production in the world.[133][134][135]

A wide mix of local, national, and international newspapers are distributed in the city. The two major English-language daily newspapers are The Vancouver Sun and The Province. Also, two national newspapers distributed in the city are The Globe and Mail, which began publication of a "national edition" in B.C. in 1983 and recently expanded to include a three-page B.C. news section, and the National Post which centres around national news. Other local newspapers include 24H (a local free daily), the Vancouver franchise of the national free daily Metro, the twice-a-week Vancouver Courier, and the independent newspaper The Georgia Straight. Three Chinese language daily newspapers, Ming Pao, Sing Tao and World Journal cater to the city's large Cantonese and Mandarin speaking population. A number of other local and international papers serve other multicultural groups in the Lower Mainland.

Some of the local television stations include CBC, Citytv, CTV and Global BC. OMNI British Columbia produce daily newscasts in Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi and Korean, and weekly newscasts in Tagalog, as well as programs aimed at other cultural groups. Fairchild Group also has two television stations: Fairchild TV and Talentvision, serving Cantonese and Mandarin speaking audiences respectively.

Radio stations with news departments include CBC Radio One, CKNW and News 1130. The Franco-Columbian community is served by Radio-Canada outlets CBUFT channel 26 (Télévision de Radio-Canada), CBUF-FM 97.7 (Première Chaîne) and CBUX-FM 90.9 (Espace musique). Vancouver also has British Columbia's longest running Ukrainian radio program, Nash Holos.

Media dominance is a frequently discussed issue in Vancouver as newspapers, The Vancouver Sun, The Province, the Vancouver Courier and other local newspapers such as the Surrey Now, the Burnaby Now and the Richmond News, and for television, Global BC, are all owned by Canwest.[136] The concentration single owned corporate media has spurred alternatives, making Vancouver a centre for independent online media including The Tyee and NowPublic.[137]


Vancouver's streetcar system began on 28 June 1890 and ran from the (first) Granville Street Bridge to Westminster Avenue (now Main Street and Kingsway). Less than a year later, the Westminster and Vancouver Tramway Company began operating Canada's first interurban line between the two cities and beyond to Chilliwack, with another line, the Lulu Island Railroad, from the Granville Street Bridge to Steveston via Kerrisdale, which encouraged residential neighbourhoods outside the central core to develop.[138] The British Columbia Electric Railway became the company that operated the urban and interurban rail system, until 1958 when its last vestiges were dismantled in favour of "trackless" trolley and gasoline/diesel buses.[139] Vancouver currently has the second largest trolley bus fleet in North America after San Francisco.

A two car train follows rail tracks under and bridge. In the background can be seen a domed sports stadium and high-rise buildings.
Vancouver's SkyTrain in the Grandview Cut, with downtown Vancouver in the background. The dome-like structure is BC Place Stadium

Successive city councils in the 1970s and 1980s prohibited the construction of freeways as part of a long term plan.[140] As a result, the only major freeway within city limits is Highway 1, which passes through the north-eastern corner of the city. While the number of cars in Vancouver proper has been steadily rising with population growth, the rate of car ownership and the average distance driven by daily commuters have fallen since the early 1990s.[141][142] Vancouver is the only major Canadian city with these trends. Despite the fact that the journey time per vehicle has increased by one third and growing traffic mass, there are 7% fewer cars making trips into the downtown core.[141] Residents have been more inclined to live in areas closer to their interests, or use more energy-efficient means of travel, such as mass transit and cycling. This is, in part, the result of a push by city planners for a solution to traffic problems and pro-environment campaigns. Transportation demand management policies have imposed restrictions on drivers making it more difficult and expensive to commute while introducing more benefits for non-drivers.[141]

TransLink is responsible for roads and public transportation within Metro Vancouver. It provides a bus service, including the B-Line rapid bus service, a foot passenger and bicycle ferry service (known as SeaBus), an automated rapid transit service called SkyTrain, and West Coast Express commuter rail. Vancouver's SkyTrain system is currently running on three lines, the Millennium Line, the Expo Line and the Canada Line.[143]

Changes are being made to the regional transportation network as part of Translink's 10-Year Transportation Plan. The recently completed Canada Line, opened on 17 August 2009, that connects Vancouver International Airport and the neighbouring city of Richmond with the existing SkyTrain system. The Evergreen Line is planned to link the cities of Coquitlam and Port Moody with the SkyTrain system by 2014. There are also plans to extend the SkyTrain Millennium Line west to UBC as a subway under Broadway and capacity upgrades and an extension to the Expo Line. Several road projects will be completed within the next few years, including a replacement for the Port Mann Bridge, as part of the Provincial Government's Gateway Program.[143]

Other modes of transport add to the diversity of options available in Vancouver. Inter-city passenger rail service is operated from Pacific Central Station by VIA Rail to points east; Amtrak Cascades to Seattle; and Rocky Mountaineer rail tour routes. Small passenger ferries operating in False Creek provide commuter service to Granville Island, Downtown Vancouver and Kitsilano. Vancouver has a city-wide network of bicycle lanes and routes, which supports an active population of cyclists year-round. Cycling has become Vancouver's fastest growing mode of transportation.[144]

Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport (YVR), located on Sea Island in the City of Richmond, immediately south of Vancouver. Vancouver's airport is Canada's second busiest airport,[145] and the second largest gateway on the west coast of North America for international passengers.[146] HeliJet and float plane companies operate scheduled air service from Vancouver harbour and YVR south terminal. The city is also served by two BC Ferry terminals. One is to the northwest at Horseshoe Bay (in West Vancouver), and the other is to the south, at Tsawwassen (in Delta).[147]

Sports and recreation

Cars pass by on an elevated highway in the foreground. In the midground is a large, oval-shaped building with a white, domed roof.
BC Place Stadium, home of the BC Lions. SIte of the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The dome on the lower right is GM Place.

The mild climate of the city and close proximity to ocean, mountains, rivers and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor recreation. Vancouver has over 1,298 hectares (3,200 acres) of parks, of which, Stanley Park, at 404 hectares (1,000 acres), is the largest.[148] The city has several large beaches, many adjacent to one another, extending from the shoreline of Stanley Park around False Creek to the south side of English Bay, from Kitsilano to the University Endowment Lands, (which also has beaches that are not part of the city proper). The 18 kilometres (11 miles) of beaches include Second and Third Beaches in Stanley Park, English Bay (First Beach), Sunset, Kitsilano Beach, Jericho, Locarno, Spanish Banks, Spanish Banks Extension and Spanish Banks West. There is also a freshwater beach at Trout Lake. The coastline provides for many types of water sport, and the city is a popular destination for boating enthusiasts.[149]

Within a 20-to-30-minute drive from downtown Vancouver are the North Shore Mountains, with three ski areas: Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, and Mount Seymour. Mountain bikers have created world-renowned trails across the North Shore. The Capilano River, Lynn Creek and Seymour River, also on the North Shore, provide opportunities to whitewater enthusiasts during periods of rain and spring melt, though the canyons of those rivers are more utilized for hiking and swimming than whitewater.[150]

Running races include the Vancouver Sun Run (a 10 km (6.2 mi) race) every April; the Vancouver Marathon, held every May; and the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon held every June. The Grouse Grind is a 2.9-kilometre (1.8 mi) climb up Grouse Mountain open throughout the summer and fall months, including the annual Grouse Grind Mountain Run. Hiking trails include the Baden-Powell Trail, an arduous 42-kilometre (26 mi) long hike from West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove in the District of North Vancouver.[151]

Vancouver was the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympic and will be the host city for the Paralympic Games. In 2009, Vancouver hosted the World Police and Fire Games. Swangard Stadium, in nearby Burnaby, hosted games for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup.[15][152]

In 2011, Vancouver will be hosting the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League (CFL) championship game which is awarded every year to a different city which has a CFL team. The Vancouver Titans of the International Basketball League played their inaugural season in 2009, with home games at the Langley Event Centre.[153] Vancouver is a centre for the fast-growing sport of Ultimate. During the summer of 2008 Vancouver hosted the World Ultimate Championships.[154]

Slightly elevated view of an active ice rink. Players on one team wear mostly red and white uniforms, while the others are outfitted predominately in blue.
GM Place, home of the Vancouver Canucks
Club League Sport Venue Established Championships
Vancouver Canucks NHL Ice hockey General Motors Place 1970 0
BC Lions CFL Football BC Place Stadium 1954 5
Vancouver Canadians NWL Baseball (Single A Short Season) Nat Bailey Stadium 2000 0
Vancouver Whitecaps FC USSF Division 2 Professional League (men's)
W-League (women's)
Soccer Swangard Stadium 1986
Vancouver Giants WHL Ice hockey Pacific Coliseum 2001 1
Vancouver Titans IBL Basketball Langley Event Centre 2009 0
Vancouver (first season in 2011) MLS Soccer BC Place Stadium 2009 (2011) 0

Affiliated cities and municipalities

The City of Vancouver was one of the first cities in Canada to enter into an international sister cities arrangement.[155] Special arrangements for cultural, social and economic benefits have been created with these sister cities.[44][156]

There are 21 municipalities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). While each of these has a separate municipal government, the GVRD oversees common services within the metropolitan area such as water, sewage, transportation, and regional parks.

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External links

Coordinates: 49°15′N 123°06′W / 49.25°N 123.1°W / 49.25; -123.1

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Vancouver article)

From Wikitravel

Vancouver is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
For other places with the same name, see Vancouver (disambiguation).
Towers and mountains - looking at the Vancouver skyline from Cambie St.
Towers and mountains - looking at the Vancouver skyline from Cambie St.

Vancouver [1] is the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada, and third largest in Canada, with a population of 2.6 million. Located at the southwestern corner of the coastal province of British Columbia, it is well known for its majestic natural beauty, as it is nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is frequently ranked as one of the "best cities to live in" and is certainly a beautiful destination to visit.

Vancouver will be the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics.


Vancouverites broadly split their city into three: the Westside, the Eastside (or East Van) and downtown. This split is simply geography -- everything west of Ontario St is the Westside, everything east is East Van and everything north of False Creek is downtown. Each of these areas have their own attractions and neighbourhoods, so time permitting, explore as many as you can.

Vancouver District and Road map.
Vancouver District and Road map.
Downtown (Central Business District-Yaletown, Stanley Park and the West End, Gastown-Chinatown)
The downtown peninsula that holds many of the city's attractions, restaurants and high-end hotels. It is home to beautiful architecture, fine dining and world class shopping. It includes the West End, Coal Harbour, Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown and Stanley Park. It is also home to four beaches - Sunset Beach, English Bay (First Beach), Second Beach, and Third Beach.
Westside (Kitsilano, South Granville, UBC and South Vancouver)
There's plenty to interest the visitor here with the markets of Granville Island, beaches, gardens, some fine museums and a thriving arts scene.
East Van (Commerical Drive, South Main, Punjabi Market)
A large, mostly residential area of the city. Commercial Drive has many ethnic restaurants; Main Street is an up and coming artsy part of the city filled with unique shops.

This list covers only the city itself. For its many suburbs, see Lower Mainland.


While Vancouver is a comparatively young city, at just over 100 years, its history begins long before. The Coast Salish indigenous peoples (First Nations) have lived in the area for at least 6000 years, and Vancouver's namesake Captain George Vancouver sailed through the First Narrows in 1792. The first settlement on the downtown peninsula was Granville, located on the spot of today's Gastown. In the year of Canada's confederation a saloon was built on this site and gave birth to a small shantytown of bars and stores adjacent to the original mill on the south shore of what is now the city's harbour. A seemingly endless supply of high quality lumber was logged and sold through the ports of Gastown and Moodyville, across the inlet. Some of the trees were gigantic beams which were shipped to China to construct Beijing's Imperial Palace, and one account maintains that the world's windjammer fleets could not have been built without the trees of Burrard Inlet.

Captain George Vancouver's statue.
Captain George Vancouver's statue.

Vancouver proper was signed into existence in 1886. The first City Hall was little more than a hand painted sign nailed to a wooden tent post. The arrival of the transcontinental railway a few years later spurred growth even more and by 1892 the area had over 20,000 residents; eighteen years later this figure was over 100,000.

Factor in constant growth every year since (many in the double digits), and Greater Vancouver today is Canada's largest metropolitan area west of Toronto by far with more than 2,600,000 residents, more than half of British Columbia's population as a whole. It is also the fastest growing part of Canada. Greater Vancouver is one of the most ethnically diverse metropolitan areas in the world and is home to the second largest Chinatown in North America after San Francisco.

The city truly arrived in 1986 when Vancouver "hosted the world" with the Expo 86 World Fair. Media attention from around the world was consistently positive, and many considered it the most successful World's Fair since Montreal's. Vancouver has been awarded the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and this event will no doubt cast Vancouver into the world spotlight once again. It will be the second largest city ever to host the winter games, and interestingly, the only city at sea level to host them. The only worry being that February is the rainiest month of the year in Vancouver.

Vancouver is perhaps best known for its scenic beauty, and the opportunities afforded by its natural environment. Vancouver is one of those rare places where you could theoretically ski in the mountains, windsurf in the ocean, and play a round of golf all in the same day. Surrounded by water on three sides, and crowned by the North Shore mountains, Vancouver is a great destination in itself, as well a great starting point for discovering the area's many outdoor activities.

Vancouver is a major sea port on the Pacific Ocean, and a base for many Alaska Cruise Ships in the summer. It has the same name as another city in the region, Vancouver, Washington (USA).

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 6 8 10 13 16 19 22 22 18 14 9 6
Nightly lows (°C) 0 1 3 5 8 11 13 13 10 7 3 1
Precipitation (cm) 15 12 11 8 6 5 4 4 6 11 17 18

See the Vancouver 7 day forecast at Environment Canada

With the exception of Victoria, Vancouver has the mildest climate of any major city in Canada; even palm trees can grow here. It rains a lot in Vancouver, especially during the winters, but during the summer months Vancouver gets less rain than most other Canadian cities. During the winter months it can go weeks without seeing the sun or a dry day, but the temperature rarely goes below freezing. Heavy snowfalls are an unusual sight and often lead to major traffic congestion.. The weather in Vancouver is similar to the southern UK, and while weather is similar to Seattle's, Vancouver frequently enjoys somewhat better weather overall. In the early summer the days often start out cloudy, due to marine air, but becomes clear by noon. Contrary to Vancouver's wet reputation, during the summer it is actually the second driest major Canadian city (after Victoria). Summer temperatures are not extreme, the typical day time high between June and August is around 25°C (77°F).

Cherry blossoms in the University of British Columbia.
Cherry blossoms in the University of British Columbia.

There is one word to describe Vancouver's weather: unpredictable. The weather can be completely different depending on what part of the city you are in. It can be pouring rain on the North Shore and sunny in White Rock.

If you are visiting the city between July and October, you will most likely have excellent weather. The rainy season often starts in the middle of October. Without warning, one day it will be nice and sunny and the next the rain will begin and continue, seemingly continuously, until early March. If you are coming to the city for a ski holiday, the best time to visit is February; the region has a great record for excellent ski conditions during this month, once you get to altitudes above the constant rain.

Visitor Information

If you want information to plan your visit, contact Tourism Vancouver [2]. In town, further information can be obtained at local visitor information centers.

  • Tourism Vancouver Visitor Center, 200 Burrard St (Plaza level, Burrard & Cordova), +1 604-683-2000 (fax: +1 604-682-6839). 8:30AM-6PM. Offers maps, brochures and other information for visitors.  edit

Get in

By plane

Vancouver International Airport

Vancouver International Airport [3], or YVR as locals sometimes refer to it, is located immediately south of the city of Vancouver. It serves as the hub airport for Western Canada with frequent flights to other points in British Columbia, major cities across Canada and the U.S., Asia and several to Europe . The majority of Canadian flights are with Star Alliance member Air Canada [4] and WestJet [5]. U.S. destinations are served by United Airlines, Alaska Airways, Continental Airlines, US Airways, Delta Airlines, Air Canada, and WestJet. International flights are serviced by Air Canada, KLM, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Singapore Airlines (until 25 Apr), Korean Air, Philipine Airlines, and Air New Zealand to name a few.

YVR, Vancouver International Airport
YVR, Vancouver International Airport

YVR's three terminals are: Domestic for jet flights within Canada, International for flights outside of Canada and South, which is the base for prop, small jet, and seaplane service to 'local' communities in B.C. and Yukon. The domestic and international terminals are connected and you can easily walk back and forth between them. The South Terminal is not attached and requires separate transportation to get to it.

The International Terminal has two boarding areas -- Transborder and International. The transborder area (Gate D) services all U.S. bound flights and has U.S. customs onsite. Travellers leaving Canada to fly into the U.S. must clear customs before you board the plane, so give yourself some extra time to check-in when you leave Vancouver for U.S. destinations. [Note: In the summer season when the Alaska cruises are operating to Vancouver, the afternoon flights are filled with Alaskan cruisers disembarking at Vancouver; give yourself even more extra time to get through the long customs line.] The remainder of the international terminal (Gate E) has all other customs and immigration services, and has a sophisticated layout complete with native scapes of the B.C. terrain and sights. Construction is currently taking place to expand the international terminal and refurbishing and expanding the domestic terminal.

There is a range of restaurants, services and shops if you are hungry or want to kill some time before or after a flight. The airport has a policy of “street pricing”, obliging retailers and restaurants to sell at the same prices in the airport as in the city to avoid customer gouging. Typical fast-food restaurants are located before the security check-ins in the departure areas. For a nice meal, a Milestone's restaurant is located in the domestic terminal just outside the security check-in. In the international terminal, the upscale Fairmont Hotel has a nice view and some reasonably priced choices on their menu. Duty-free purchases may be made both before and after you clear customs in the airport, up to your personal exemption limit. ABM machines are scattered throughout the terminals. Currency exchange counters are located on both sides of security in the international terminal.

There are a number of ways to get into town from the airport. Prices and directions below are for getting into downtown Vancouver.

  • SkyTrain - The Canada Line [6] provides the only direct rapid transit public service downtown, in 25 minutes. The fare from YVR is currently $3.75. Starting 18 Jan 2010, transit tickets purchased from vending machines at the airport will include a $5 surcharge (the "YVR AddFare"), so the cost will be $8.75. For further info on Vancouver's public transit system, see Get around below.
  • Taxi - Taxis line up just outside the baggage claim areas. A taxi ride into town will cost about $25-30 and should take under half an hour. All taxis that serve the airport are required to accept credit cards.
  • Limousines - Limojet Gold [7] offers comfortable sedan and limousine options for getting into town. Rides into the city center cost $40-55 depending on where you are going and whether you are in a sedan or limo.

Floatplane and heliport

There are floatplane facilities located both in the Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver (IATA: CXH) and at Vancouver International's South Terminal. Floatplanes operated by Harbour Air, Baxter Aviation, Salt Spring Air and West Coast Air [8] fly frequently from downtown Vancouver and/or YVR to Victoria's Inner Harbour, Vancouver Island, the scenic Gulf Islands, Seattle and other local destinations. Some float plane operators also offer spectacular tours of the central city and nearby attractions starting at about $80-100 per person... a great way to see a panoramic view of downtown. A quick search of Google will bring up websites for most of these float plane operators.

Finally, Helijet [9] operates helicopter service from the downtown heliport next to Waterfront Station, providing quick and convenient connections to Victoria and YVR.

Abbotsford International Airport

Abbotsford International Airport [10] (IATA: YXX), located about 80 km (50 mi) east of Vancouver in Abbotsford, is Vancouver's alternate airport. It handles mostly domestic flights and, with an arranged ride, you can be in and out of this airport in under 10 min (with no checked in baggage).

The best way to reach Vancouver from Abbotsford Airport is by car -- take the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) west. The drive will take 1-1.5 hours, depending on traffic. There is no public transit link between this airport and Vancouver, so if you don't have access to a car, it is highly recommended that you fly into YVR instead. Car rentals are available at the airport.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Flying in and out of Seattle, most notably for US destinations, and then using the bus for travel to and from Vancouver city is an often less expensive option than buying a direct flight from YVR or YXX due to tariffs and "other" reasons. A U.S. visa may be required and could take some time to procure. For budget travellers, you may wish to consider checking flights to and from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The bus or train ride takes about 5 hr one way and driving time is approximately 2.5-3 hr. Allow extra time to clear customs at the border.

By car

The main highway into Vancouver from the east is Highway #1 (the Trans-Canada Highway). This road skirts the eastern edge of Vancouver, so if you want to get into the city, you will need to exit off it at Grandview Highway, First Avenue or Hastings Street.

From the U.S./Canada border south of the city, Highway 99 (the Canadian extension of U.S. Interstate 5) runs north to Vancouver. Note that the freeway ends after the Oak Street Bridge, turning into Oak Street heading north. Drivers with a downtown destination will need to get onto Granville Street (parallel to Oak St to the west) in order to get on the Granville Street Bridge which crosses False Creek into the downtown peninsula.

If you are coming from the North Shore or other points further north, the only way into Vancouver is by bridge. Your options are the Lion's Gate Bridge (Hwy 99) which brings you into Stanley Park and Vancouver's West End or the Second Narrows Bridge/Ironworkers Memorial Bridge (Hwy 1) which brings you into the neighbourhoods of East Van.

By bus

Vancouver is well served by bus service. There are a number of different bus lines providing service to various cities near and far. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Greyhound [11] connects Vancouver with many cities, including Seattle, Calgary and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
  • Quick Coach [12] connects Vancouver with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington.
  • Pacific Coach Lines[13] connects Vancouver with Victoria. Scheduled service follows the BC Ferry service from Tsawwassen to Victoria (Swartz Bay). This is hourly in the summer months, and every two hours in the off-season.

By train

Taking the train to Vancouver is unlikely to be the cheapest option, but it is a scenic one. Rail options include:

  • VIA Rail [14] has the Canadian which runs from Toronto to Vancouver with three weekly departures.
  • The Rocky Mountaineer [15] operates routes between Vancouver and Banff, Calgary and Jasper three times a week from April to October.
  • Amtrak [16] runs a service between Seattle and Vancouver called Amtrak Cascades [17]. Trains depart Seattle daily at 7:40AM and 6:40PM, arriving in Vancouver at 11:35AM and 10:45PM respectively. The return trips leave Vancouver at 6:40AM and 5:45PM.

All trains arrive at Pacific Central Station, located at 1150 Station Street (east of downtown off Main St). From there, it is a short taxi ride into the central business area, or you can pick up the SkyTrain at the Main St/Science World station two blocks away.

If you have the time and money, travelling to Vancouver by train can be an excellent way to see the Canadian Rockies. This is discussed further at the Rocky Mountaineer.

By boat

There are two ferry terminals serviced by BC Ferries [18] in the area, although neither is within the city of Vancouver itself.

Both terminals are far enough from the city core that you will need to travel by car, taxi or bus to get into town from them (and vice-versa). In terms of bus transportation, the various coach services are recommended over public transit. Public buses to and from the ferry terminals are fairly easy and direct. From Vancouver downtown, you take Canada Line (Skytrain) from downtown to Brighouse Station. From Brighouse Station, take the 620 bus which takes you directly to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.

A cruise ship passing through Lion's Gate Bridge.
A cruise ship passing through Lion's Gate Bridge.

Port Metro Vancouver [19] is the homeport for the popular Vancouver-Alaska cruise. From May-Sep, more than 3/4 million visitors pass through the two cruise ship terminals in Port Metro Vancouver. Check with your cruise line as to which terminal your ship is using, especially if you are embarking at Vancouver.

  • Canada Place Terminal, located on the waterfront and a few minutes' walk to the heart of downtown Vancouver or Waterfront Station, is the primary cruise ship terminal. Canada Place was built originally for Expo86 and is recognized by its dramatic rooftop that looks like five white sails. A full range of ground transportation, excellent hotels, shopping, dining, entertainment, and attractions is available at Canada Place.
  • Ballantyne Pier Terminal, located on the waterfront 2 km east of Canada Place, is the secondary cruise ship terminal and accessible by a 15-min taxi ($12) to/from downtown or by a shuttle provided by some of the downtown hotels or some of the cruise lines. Travellers to Ballantyne have access to Ballantyne Cruise Terminal via Clark Drive or McGill St Overpass only. There is no access to travellers via Victoria Dr and Heatley Ave. There is no public transportation and no rental car kiosks at Ballantyne.

US passport holders may be able to participate in "Onboard Check-in” and “US Direct" to streamline processing at the cruise ship and the airport. US Direct allows passengers arriving at Vancouver Airport (YVR) to transfer directly to a same-day-departing cruise ship by participating in expedited immigration and customs clearance process. Onboard Check-in allows passengers arriving on a cruise ship and flying out of YVR on the same day to transfer directly to YVR by participating in an expedited immigration and customs clearance process.

These programs do not apply to passengers who are planning a pre- or post-cruise stay in Vancouver. Not all cruise lines participate, so check with your cruise line to see if you can take advantage of the Onboard Check-in/US Direct program.

Get around

Vancouver is one of the few major cities in North America without a freeway leading directly into the downtown core (freeway proposals in the 1960's and 1970's were defeated by community opposition). As a result, development has taken a different course than in most other major North American cities resulting in a relatively high use of transit and cycling, a dense, walkable core and a development model that is studied and emulated elsewhere.

Skytrain Vancouver
Skytrain Vancouver

Vancouver's public transit is run by the regional transportation authority, TransLink [20] as an integrated system of buses, rapid transit (SkyTrain) and passenger ferry (SeaBus) . The transit system connects Vancouver with its neighboring municipalities, stretching as far north as Lions Bay, south to the U.S. border and east to Langley and Maple Ridge.

Adult fares for travel within the city of Vancouver cost $2.50. Travel from Vancouver to nearby places like North Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond costs a little bit more -- $3.75-$5 -- depending on the time of day and number of transit zones you cross. Travel on weekends and weekdays after 6:30PM is always $2.50 regardless of the destination. The ticket you receive is valid for 1.5 hours from the time of purchase and can be used to transfer to any bus, SkyTrain or the SeaBus during that time. TransLink's website and customer information line (+1 604-953-3333) both offer complete trip planning. A regional system map is widely available at convenience stores and on TransLink's website.

A more convenient option for the traveller may be the Daypass, which offers unlimited travel for a single day at the cost of $9. It is available from fare machines at SkyTrain stations. Books of 10 prepaid tickets (FareSaver tickets) are available at a discount from many convenience stores. Concession fares are available for Vancouver grade-school students and BC seniors and cost between $1.75-$3.50. If you're a student or a senior you must be carrying a TransLink GoCard or BC Gold CareCard to receive the reduced concession fare. Monthly passes are also available, which can cost $73-136, depending on how many zones they cover.

The bus service covers the widest area and travels along most major streets in the city. Passengers must either buy a ticket or present their ticket immediately upon entering a TransLink bus. Buses accept coins only and will not give change. Tickets can also be purchased from vending machines in SkyTrain stations that accept coins, bills, debit and credit cards. In addition, several bus rapid transit lines named B Lines crisscross the city.

Skytrain system map
Skytrain system map

SkyTrain is the mostly elevated rapid transit system that connects Vancouver's downtown with some of its southern and eastern suburbs. The Expo line runs out through Burnaby and New Westminster to King George station in Surrey. The Millennium line follows the Expo line to New Westminster and then loops back through Burnaby and into Vancouver again ending at VCC/Clark. The new (2009) Canada Line connects downtown with Richmond and Vancouver Airport. Notable SkyTrain stations in Vancouver include:

  • Broadway/Commercial Drive - Accesses the restaurants of Commercial Dr in East Vancouver
  • Burrard and Granville - Most convenient for accessing the shopping areas in the central business district
  • Waterfront Station - Meeting point of the SkyTrain, SeaBus, numerous commuter and rapid bus routes and the commuter rail West Coast Express. It is also at the entrance to Gastown and is right next to the Canada Place Convention Centre/Cruise Ship Terminal facilities.

The SeaBus is a passenger ferry that connects Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. It generally runs every 15 min except in the evening and on Sundays. The exact schedule is available on TransLink's website.

Purchasing tickets for the SkyTrain and the SeaBus operates on the honor system, with ticket checks occuring at random, often rare times. It is not difficult to ride without paying, especially during rush hour, but those who do so ride at their own risk. If caught, the passenger has to pay a fine of $173. Tickets are easily available through vending machines at SkyTrain stations and either SeaBus terminal.

SkyTrain and SeaBus service ends before last call at night clubs and bars, so if you'll be partying downtown, be sure you figure out a ride home.

By ferry across False Creek

A quick trip across on a cute little-boat-that-could ferry can be the most fun, traffic-free, and convenient way to get between various points on False Creek:

  • Maritime Museum in Vanier Park on the south shore,
  • Aquatic Centre at Sunset Beach on the north shore,
  • Hornby St on the north shore,
  • Granville Island and its famous Public Market on the south shore,
  • Yaletown/Davie St. on the north shore,
  • Stamp's Landing/Monk's and Spyglass Place on the south shore,
  • Plaza of Nations and Edgewater Casino on the north shore, and
  • Science World, the geodesic dome at the east end of False Creek.

Service is offered by Granville Island Ferries [21] with little blue boats and by Aquabus [22] with little rainbow boats. The two ferries run slightly different routes, and their docks on Granville Island are on either side of the Public Market. Current prices for adults start at $3 for short routes to $6 for long routes.

By car

Vancouver's road network is generally a grid system with a "Street" running north-south and an "Avenue" running east-west. Arterial roads follow the grid fairly well (although not perfectly), but side streets frequently disappear for blocks at a time and then reappear. Most of the "Avenues" are numbered and they always use East or West to designate whether it is on the East side or the West side of Ontario Street. Some of the major avenues use names rather than numbers (Broadway would be 9th Ave, King Edward Ave would be 25th Ave).

Downtown Vancouver has its own grid system and doesn't follow the street/avenue format of the rest of the city. It is also surrounded by water on three sides, so most of the ways in and out require you to cross a bridge. This can cause traffic congestion, particularly at peak times (morning and evening commutes, sunny weekend afternoons, major sporting events), so factor that into any driving plans, or avoid if possible.

Go West... but which one?

The term "West" comes up frequently in connection with Vancouver and can be confusing for locals and visitors alike. It can refer to:

  • the West Side of Vancouver, which is the area of Vancouver west of Ontario Street. It includes Kitsilano, South Granville, UBC and South Vancouver, but excludes the downtown peninsula,
  • the West End, which is the western portion of the downtown peninsula, and
  • West Vancouver, a municipality across the harbor in the North Shore.

One of the best ways to avoid traffic congestion is to listen to traffic reports on AM730. This station reports only about traffic and can be quick to report any accidents and congestion, as well as B.C. ferry reports, Langley ferry lineups, border wait times, and other information pertaining to getting around the city and its many suburbs.

A unique feature of Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia is intersections with flashing green traffic signals. These do not indicate an advance left turn as it would in many other parts of North America. Instead, a flashing green light indicates a traffic signal that can be activated only by a pedestrian or a cyclist on the side street, but not by a motor vehicle. When the signal turns red, traffic stops as at any traffic signal. Any side street traffic must obey the stop sign on the side street and must yield to any pedestrians crossing the side street, even if traffic is stopped on the main street.


Parking downtown generally costs $1-2.50/hour or $12-$20/day. Commercial areas will typically have meter parking on the street, with meters accepting Canadian and American change only (American coins accepted at par value). Residential streets may allow free parking, but some will require a permit.

Easy Park [23] lots (look for an orange circle with a big "P") rank as the most affordable of the parkades, but generally the cost of parking will not vary greatly among parkades within a certain area. Most will accept payment by credit card, as well as coins. Beware of scammers hanging around in some parkades, trying to sell parking tickets for less than their face value — typically, they have purchased the tickets with stolen credit cards. Also be careful parking overnight, as vehicle break-ins are not uncommon.

City meters and parking regulations are enforced regularly. Meter-related offenses will result in fines. Violations in private lots are generally unenforceable, but may result in your car being towed. If your vehicle is towed on a city street, you can recover it at the city impound lot at 1410 Granville St (under the Granville St bridge).

By bicycle

The city of Vancouver is a very bicycle-friendly city. In addition to the extremely popular seawall bicycle routes along Stanley Park, False Creek and Kitsilano, there are a whole network of bicycle routes that connect the whole city. The City of Vancouver provides a map of the bicycle routes that is available at most bike shops or online. Also, all buses have bicycle racks on the front to help riders get to less accessible parts. North American visitors will find that, drivers in Vancouver are well accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists.

Bicycles are available to rent by the hour, day or week. Many places also rent tandem bikes. Some bicycle rental locations:

  • Bazooka Bikes, 1531 Robson St, [24]
  • Stanley Park Cycle, 768 Denman St, [25]
  • Bayshore Bike Rentals, 745 Denman St, [26].
  • Spokes Bicycle Rentals, 1789 W Georgia St, [27].
  • Reckless Bike Stores, 1810 Fir Street at 2nd Ave & 110 Davie St at Pacific, [28].
  • JV Bike, 1387 Richards St, [29] also rents electric assist bicycles to make the hills a little easier.

Alternatively, buy a used bicycle and either sell it on or donate it to someone in more need of it at the end of your stay. There are a number of 2nd owner bicycle stores on Dunbar and the surrounding area, including the famous Cheapskates.

  • Cheapskates, 3228 Dunbar St, +1 604-734-1191.
  • Our Community Bikes, 3283 Main St. +1 604-879-2453 (, [30].

Hosted Bicycle Tours are available from a number of suppliers. These tours are educational and cover many of the interesting areas and attractions of Vancouver.

  • City by Cycle, 101-2539 Laurel St, +1-888-599-6800, [31].


While Vancouver is still a young city, it has a variety of attractions and points of interest for the visitor. Many of the city's landmarks and historical buildings can be found downtown. Canada Place, with its distinctive sails, the Vancouver Convention Center located just beside it, the intricate Art Deco styling of the Marine Building and the old luxury railway hotel of the Hotel Vancouver are in the central business district. Stanley Park (the city's most popular attraction), along with its neighboring Coal Harbour walkway and the Vancouver Aquarium are in the West End and Gastown, the original town site of Vancouver, has a number of restored buildings and its steam clock is a popular spot to visit. Modern architecture worth visiting also includes Shangri-La, currently the tallest building in the city, and the Sheraton Wall Center. Another popular city landmark, the bustling markets and shops of Granville Island, is just to the south of downtown in South Granville.

If you're looking to learn a little about the people of the Northwest Coast and some of its history, one good spot is the impressive Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, which houses several thousand objects from BC's First Nations. The museum is also home to significant collections of archaeological objects and ethnographic materials from other parts of the world. The Vancouver Art Gallery, located downtown combines local with international through a variety of exhibitions and a permanent collection that focuses on renowned British Columbia artist, Emily Carr. The Vancouver Public Library, located downtown at Homer and Robson Sts, is modeled after the Roman Colosseum, and houses the city's largest library. Another downtown sight is the small Contemporary Art Gallery on Nelson Street, which features modern art. Also located nearby, just south of Chinatown is the shiny geodesic dome of the Telus World of Science (commonly known as Science World), which has a number of exhibits, shows and galleries aimed at making science fun for kids. There are also some smaller sights in Kitsilano, including the Vancouver Maritime Museum, Museum of Vancouver, and H.R. Macmillan Space Centre.

The city has a wealth of parks and gardens scattered throughout. The most famous is Stanley Park at the tip of the downtown peninsula. Its miles of trails for walking and cycling, beaches, magnificent views and the attractions (including totem poles) within the park gives it something for everyone. The most popular trail is the Seawall, a paved trail that runs around the perimeter of Stanley Park and now joins with the seawalls in Coal Harbour and Kitsilano, totaling 22 km in length. The Vancouver Aquarium is located within Stanley Park. Other notable parks and gardens include VanDusen Botanical Garden and Queen Elizabeth Park in South Vancouver, the Nitobe Memorial Garden (commonly known as the Nitobe Japanese Garden) and UBC Botanical Garden at the University of British Columbia and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Chinatown downtown.

Admission to Vancouver's various attractions can range from $10 to up to $30 per person. There are a variety of attractions passes available that help visitors save on retail admissions such as the See Vancouver Smartvisit Card and the Vancouver Five in One Card.

Finally, a trip to Vancouver wouldn't be complete without a glimpse of the skyline and the Coastal mountains rising above the city (clouds permitting, of course!). Popular spots to view it include Stanley Park and the Harbour Centre downtown, Spanish Banks and Jericho Beaches in Kitsilano and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Other interesting views can be seen from City Hall at 12th and Cambie, Queen Elizabeth Park and East Van's CRAB Park.



If you want to orient yourself in the city, there are a variety of tours -- bus, walking, hop-on, hop-off -- based out of the City Center that will regale you with Vancouver lore while taking you to many of the main attractions.

Views from the Seawall in Stanley Park
Views from the Seawall in Stanley Park

Outdoor Activities

Vancouverites love the outdoors and one of the most popular things to do is to walk, jog, bike or rollerblade the Seawall. It starts at Canada Place downtown, wraps around Stanley Park and follows the shoreline of False Creek though Yaletown, Science World and Granville Island to Kits Beach in Kitsilano. The most popular sections are around Stanley Park and along the north shore of False Creek. Bike and rollerblade rentals are available from a few shops near the corner of Denman & West Georgia if you prefer wheeled transportation over walking. If the weather's nice, go out to Granville Island, rent a speedboat and take a boat ride on the waters around Stanley Park and Coal Harbor. Golf courses also are abundant in the city, along with more cost-conscious pitch-and-putt courses.

If you'd rather lie in the sun than play in the sun, Vancouver has a number of beaches. While certainly not glamourous and lacking waves most days, there's sand, water and lots of people on sunny summer days. Kitsilano has a string of beaches, the most well known being Kitsilano Beach, Jericho and Spanish Banks. Kits Beach is the most popular and has beach volleyball, Spanish Banks is a bit quieter and popular with skimboarders. There are a few beaches on the south and west sides of downtown, with Sunset Beach (near Denman & Beach) being the largest and most popular. Finally, no discussion of Vancouver beaches would be complete without mention of Wreck Beach at the tip of Point Grey in UBC. As much rock as it is sand, it holds a place in the Vancouver identity and is the only city beach where you can bare it all.

For many, Vancouver is synonymous with skiing and snowboarding. While there are no ski hills within the city itself, there are three "local" hills (Cypress, Grouse Mountain and Seymour) across the harbour on the North Shore. And of course, Vancouver is the gateway to Whistler, the biggest and one of the highest rated snow destinations in North America.

Pacific Coliseum
Pacific Coliseum

When you tire of doing stuff outdoors, or prefer that someone else do the hard work, you can always grab a seat and take in the local sports teams. The biggest draw in town is hockey (the variety played on ice, not a field) and the local professional team is the Vancouver Canucks. The team plays at GM Place in the City Center and the season lasts from October to April (and possibly longer if they make the play-offs). Tickets are pricey and the concessions are even worse, but it's a good game to watch live. The local junior hockey team, the Vancouver Giants, offer a cheaper but no less exciting experience. They play out of Pacific Coliseum in East Van.

Hockey isn't the only game in town though. The BC Lions, the city's Canadian Football League team (think American football with 12 players a side, three downs, a slightly larger field, and much larger end zones) plays during the summer and fall at BC Place downtown. Vancouver also has a single A baseball team, the Vancouver Canadians, who play out of Nat Bailey Stadium in South Vancouver. If soccer is your game, the Vancouver Whitecaps play out of Swangard Stadium in nearby Burnaby. In 2011, the Whitecaps will be replaced by a new Major League Soccer team, the second in Canada. After the 2010 Winter Olympics, BC Place will be closed for renovations, set for completion in the middle of 2011, that will include replacing the current inflatable roof with a retractable roof. During the project, the Lions will play at Empire Fields, a temporary stadium currently being built on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds in East Van. The new MLS team will begin its inaugural 2011 season at Empire Fields as well. Both teams will then move to the reopened BC Place; the MLS team is currently planning to build a new stadium of its own near the waterfront, but that project will not be complete until at least 2015.

Vancouver's Chinatown.
Vancouver's Chinatown.

Vancouver isn't all about the outdoors as it offers a variety of theatre, concerts and other cultural events. There are symphony and opera venues downtown and much of the city's live theater can be found in South Granville, particularly on Granville Island with its thriving arts scene.

The city's Chinese heritage comes alive during Chinese New Year. Chinatown, in the east side of downtown, is awash in colour and has many festivities, including a parade. June sees the annual Dragon Boat Festival on False Creek.

There is no shortage of festivals around the city, with many local ones particular to a neighbourhood. The festival that draws the largest crowds is the HSBC Celebration of Light [32], a four night extravaganza of fireworks over English Bay in late July and early August. Countries compete with 20-30 min displays choreographed to music. The fireworks start at 10PM and are best viewed from Sunset Beach in the West End or Kits Beach/Vanier Park in Kitsilano. It is strongly recommended to take public transit and to get there a few hours early as the crowds are huge. Roads in the vicinity of English Bay are typically closed from 6PM onwards.

Other notable festivals include the Vancouver International Film Festival [33] that runs in Sept-Oct; the Fringe Festival [34] that presents live theater in a variety of styles and venues; Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival[35] that runs May - September at Vanier Park in Kitsilano; and the three day Folk Fest [36] on the beach in Kitsilano that features a large selection of current and upcoming folk, roots and world music acts. Another notable event is Vancouver's annual Vancouver Pride Parade [37], held on 2 August, which attracts over 500,000 spectators.


There are a number of educational institutions both in Vancouver and in the surrounding cities and suburbs. Places of study within the city of Vancouver include:

Clock tower in the University of British Columbia.
Clock tower in the University of British Columbia.
  • The University of British Columbia [38], or UBC, is ranked as one of the world's 30 best universities and is the largest university in western Canada. More than 50,000 full time and part time students in numerous disciplines are enrolled at the main campus in the UBC and South Vancouver district. UBC also has a downtown campus in Vancouver, located at Robson Square in the central business district. This location is geared more towards adult learning, business people and foreign students. Course calendars are readily available at Robson Square or on UBC's website.
  • Simon Fraser University [39], or SFU, has its main campus on the top of a mountain in Burnaby with spectacular views. SFU also has a satellite campus in downtown Vancouver.
  • Langara College [40], located in South Vancouver offers a number of programs in the arts, humanities, business and technology, as well as continuing education and ESL classes.
  • The Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design [41] on Granville Island offers a number of programs focused primarily on design and the visual arts.
  • The Great Northern Way Campus [42] in East Van is a collaborative university campus environment put together with the help of all of the major local universities, focusing on arts, technology, and the environment.
  • The British Columbia Institute of Technology [43], or BCIT, a technical college based in Burnaby, has a satellite campus in downtown Vancouver.
  • The Vancouver Film School [44] is located in downtown Vancouver.
  • Many young visitors come to Vancouver to improve their English. The Vancouver Public Library downtown maintains a list of ESL schools [45] in Vancouver.
The Metropolitan of Vancouver is constantly growing on huge scales.
The Metropolitan of Vancouver is constantly growing on huge scales.

Traditionally, much of Vancouver's industry has centered around its port facilities and the forestry and mining sectors. Although these industries are still important to the economy, Vancouver's largest employers are now the various hospitals and educational institutions in the area and companies with head offices in Vancouver such as Telus Corp and the Jim Pattison Group. Recently, Vancouver has expanded as a centre for software development and biotechnology, while streets provide a backdrop for the developing film industry. Many jobs exist in the varied small and medium sized businesses that operate in the region. As with many cities, jobs are posted on-line or in the newspaper, but it helps if you have some contacts within the industry that can point you to the jobs that are open but not posted.

As with any tourist center, there are a number of service jobs available. The attractions, restaurants and hotels downtown frequently need staff. Other areas to consider are Granville Island and the North Shore with its ski areas and Grouse Mountain.


This is only a sample of things you can look for in Vancouver. Visit the separate district pages for other info.

Tip - There are two local taxes that are charged on the vast majority of goods, the 7% PST (Provincial Sales Tax) and the 5% GST (Goods and Services Tax). These will be replaced with a combined HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) of 12% on July 1, 2010.

  • Robson Street in the City Centre is home to many touristy shops. Although not technically part of the street, the neighboring Alberni intersection is home to a variety of high-end shops such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès.
  • Pacific Centre has more than 150 shops, restaurants and services if you want to walk in an underground shopping centre. The shopping centre begins at Sears on the north end at Robson Street, and stretches all the way to Pender Street. There are many floors in the mall depending on where you are, and notable merchants include Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, Sport Chek, GAP, H&M and Apple Store; the mall is connected to the Bay (at Georgia and Granville streets), and Vancouver Centre (a small mall mainly consisting of a lotto centre, London Drugs, and a food court underneath Scotiabank).
Gastown - the original townsite of Vancouver and now the best place to find Vancouver kitsch
Gastown - the original townsite of Vancouver and now the best place to find Vancouver kitsch
  • Gastown [46] is the oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver but is being reborn as a fashion and modern urban design district. Historic buildings house hip restaurants, galleries, and interior design and high-fashion shops.
  • Yaletown is also popular for its non-mainstream fashion boutiques and high-end salons. A few Popular Yaletown Shopping Streets are: Mainland St., Hamilton St., and Pacific Blvd.
  • Granville Island is a interesting place to go if you fancy the arts. The area boasts a Public Market, an art school (Emily Carr University of Art + Design), shops, restaurants, theatres, galleries, a hotel, boat docks and more.
  • Commercial Drive, especially the stretch between 3rd Avenue and Venables St. in East Van, is great for people-watching, produce (Santa Barbara Market), magazines (Magpie), cheese (La Grotta del Formaggio), sausage (JN&Z Deli), etc.
  • Main Street, south of Broadway stretching to around 30th Avenue, has a vibrant and expanding collection of independent restaurants, cafés, high-end niche clothing stores and small boutiques.
  • East Hastings between Renfrew and Clark offers some of the best hidden delights in the city. There are many eclectic produce stores (Donald's Market). Sausage and salami producers here are some of the best in the city (Moccia's Italian Market [47]).
  • Chinatown around Main and Pender, and westwards down Pender from Main, is an old historic landmark with grocery and herbal medicine markets that mimic the ethnic flavors, sights and sounds of Eastern Asia.
  • Punjabi Market around Main, between 41st and 49th Ave. Good, cheap Punjabi food along with some Punjabi fashion; street signs are correspondingly in Punjabi.

There are some unique shopping areas in Kitsilano and East Van. In Kits you can visit the first store of Vancouver-born and based athletic retailer, Lululemon Athletica, sporting popular yoga-inspired apparel [48]. Gore-tex jackets are ubiquitous in Vancouver and the best place to buy them is at Mountain Equipment Co-op [49], Taiga Works [50] or one of the other outdoorsy stores clustered together on the east-west main drag called Broadway (equivalent to 9th Avenue, running between 8th and 10th) between Cambie St. and Main St., just east of the Kitsilano area.


Where to begin? There is something for everyone in this cosmopolitan city, and the variety of cuisines and price points have been described as a foodie's delight. In particular, you will find many different kinds of Asian food available. If you fancy sushi many places offer "all you can eat" lunches for $10, which offers food of a wildly varying quality. In general, the city is up there with some of the best cities in North America when it comes to food. If you can do without alcohol, you can usually have a pretty reasonable meal for under $10, and at one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, $70 will get you a four course feast with exquisite service.

The highest density of restaurants is in Kitsilano or the West End. The central business area has many of the high end restaurants either along Robson Street or associated with the many hotels in the downtown area. East Van tends to have many authentic ethnic restaurants.

Vancouver is also famous for its dim sum restaurants. Because of the big Chinese population, the price and quality of dim sum here is among the best in the world. One of the consistently highly-ranked dim sum restaurants by local magazines is Sun Sui Wah, at 3888 Main St. Also, check out Floata in Chinatown on Keefer St, Top Cantonese Cuisine in East Vancouver on Kingsway and Earles, or the Kirin at Cambie and 12th; reservations recommended. There are many restaurants on Victoria around 41st Ave which offer cheap dim sum ($2/plate), albeit with less class and more oil. In Burnaby, try Fortune House in Metropolis Shopping Complex. The city of Richmond, with a majority of its inhabitants being of Chinese descent, will have a plethora to choose from. Restaurants are all over the place on No. 3 Rd, Westminster Hwy, Alexandra Rd, and on the many side streets just east of Richmond Centre.

For budget travellers, pick up a Georgia Straight (a free local paper available all over the place), and clip two for one coupons from the food section.

Restaurants in Yaletown
Restaurants in Yaletown

Be advised that although the vast majority of stores around Vancouver accept credit cards, small family-owned Chinese businesses and restaurants, more often than not, accept only cash.

  • For coffee, there are perhaps more Starbucks per capita in Vancouver than anywhere else. On Robson and Thurlow, you will be able to find two Starbucks kitty-corner to one another. Starbucks is the most dominant of the three coffee shop chains found in Vancouver. The others, Caffe Artigiano and Blenz, are found throughout downtown. JJ Bean is a chain favoured among the locals and it's a great place to spend a few minutes to a few hours nursing a coffee and one of their ginormous muffins; there are six locations scattered throughout the city. Bean Around the World is a popular coffee house chain with ten locations. For independent chains try Mario's on Dunsmuir and Howe; they have a unique feel and a slower pace than other coffee shops. Make sure not to miss Trees' cheesecakes and its roasted on-site organic coffees.

Bubble tea (or boba tea) is also a popular drink among the Vancouver youth. There are countless tea houses throughout Vancouver, the most notable being Dragon Ball Tea House on West King Edward Ave and Oak St.

Gastown is one of the beer drinking areas in Vancouver.
Gastown is one of the beer drinking areas in Vancouver.

Most of the nightclubs are located in the central business district, especially along Granville Street strip, south of Robson. There are a number of good local pubs in the various quieter neighbourhoods of the city, such as along Main Street or Broadway Street. Closing times for most of these pub-like establishments begin at 1AM; nightclubs close between 2AM-3AM with a very small number operating after-hours. Nightclubs with music, a DJ and a dance floor usually charge an entrance fee. Be aware that many nightclubs often have long lineup queues on weekends, which are usually self-imposed regardless of whether or not the establishment is near capacity to attract business. Flexibility and willingness to go early is key should nightlife become part of your travel plans.

Note that liquor stores at the latest close by 11PM, while many are closed by 9PM, and there will exist no other legal options apart from drinking at an establishment beyond this time.


Vancouver offers a number of destinations for beer drinkers. The largest is the Granville Island Brewery on Granville Island (tours are available). Other microbreweries are housed in brewpubs, popular ones include the Yaletown Brewing Company and Dix BBQ and Brewery in Yaletown and Steamworks at the entrance to Gastown.


In general, accommodations in Vancouver are on the expensive side. Most hotel rooms begin at $200-250/night, and most motel rooms cost somewhere between $90-150/night. If you are lucky to find hostel accommodation, the cheapest of these will cost around $20/night, more reasonably between $35-50.

The City Center is centrally located for attractions and has the bulk of Vancouver's accommodation, including most of the high-end hotels and backpackers hostels. If you don't mind getting away from the chain hotels, there are a number of smaller boutique hotels outside of the central business district but still close to the action that are cheaper than the four and five star options downtown.

Staying outside the City Center area may give you a wider choice of affordable accommodations. There are a few budget hotels/motels along Kingsway in East Van and Broadway in South Granville. A number of B&B's are also scattered throughout the city in each district. If you want/need to stay close to the airport, Richmond has a number of hotels with varying degrees of luxury and price.

Finally, if you don't mind driving or commuting in to see Vancouver, the suburbs also have some cheaper options. North Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster all have easy access to Vancouver via the public transit system. The closest Provincial Parks with campgrounds are near Chilliwack and Squamish.


In case of an Emergency, dial 9-1-1 from any public phone for free. Be advised, however, that with the rise of cell phone use, many public phones have been removed, and can therefore be hard to come by (especially in the suburbs).

A good travel tip to remember: Dialing 1-1-2 from a cell phone automatically connects you to the nearest cellular network and calls the emergency number, regardless of its combination (ex. 9-1-1, 1-1-2 etc.) Please note that 1-1-2 will work only on GSM cellphones in Vancouver. While GSM cellphones are very common worldwide, PCS/CDMA cellular phones through Telus Mobility are more common in Vancouver, and Telus doesn't support 1-1-2 on its cellular network. To be safe, dial 9-1-1 for emergencies if you are anywhere in North America.

The area codes for phone calls in Vancouver and the surrounding area (known locally as the Lower Mainland) are 604 and 778 (these area codes overlap). Vancouver has ten-digit calling, so when making a local call you must include the area code. Calls outside the Greater Vancouver region (i.e. east of Langley or north of Squamish, including to Whistler) are toll calls from Vancouver. To call these numbers you need to add a "1" before the area code, i.e. "1-604" or "1-778".

Local calls at pay phones costs 25 cents per call. They are not metered, so you can talk as long as you want. Note that downtown pay phones are often broken. Working pay phones are almost always available at all of the downtown SkyTrain stations.

Internet cafes are widely available and generally quite reasonably priced ($2-3/hour).

In addition, there is free internet available at Canada Place. Bell has some free standing room stations set up in the main concourse of the convention center. Also, the Apple Store in the pacific mall has free wifi.

For those who have brought a laptop, free wireless points are abundant in the downtown area (including every branch of Blenz Coffee [51]), and reasonable paid service is also available in a pinch.

Stay safe

Vancouver is a safe place to visit and following common sense like keeping an eye on your possessions, knowing where you are going and avoiding alleys and unfamiliar areas at night should keep you out of trouble. Unless involved in illegal activities (such as the drug trade), it is highly unlikely you will fall victim to any sort of violent crime. If you need emergency help, dial 911.

Like any major metropolitan city, Vancouver has areas that should be traveled with caution. The most notable is the Downtown Eastside (specifically Hastings Street between Abbott and Gore). This neighborhood is infamous for homelessness, drug-use and prostitution. If you do accidentally stroll into the Downtown Eastside it is not difficult to find your way out, but if you get lost or feel uncomfortable the best thing to do is approach a police officer.

It's also wise to exercise caution in the Granville Mall area downtown on Friday and Saturday nights. As Vancouver’s bar and nightclub district, the sheer volume of people combined with alcohol consumption make disorderly conduct and rowdy behavior fairly common. But this shouldn't act as a deterrent - if you're not looking for trouble, you probably won't find it, and there is a strong police presence.

Some parts of the city have high rates of property crime. Theft from vehicles is especially problematic and parked cars with foreign or out of province license plates are frequently targeted. The best thing is to not leave any money and valuables in plain view.

Panhandling is common in some parts of downtown, but is unlikely to pose a problem. Avoiding eye contact is the best approach. Don't be rude, as there may be negative consequences.

Bottled water is widely sold, but the tap water is of high quality. You'll save a lot of money by buying a reusable water bottle and filling it up from the tap.


A common belief is that marijuana is legal in British Columbia. That is a myth. Although Vancouver's police and the justice system tend to turn a blind eye to marijuana use, tourists should be advised that possessing any amount of marijuana is illegal in all of Canada without a government-issued medical exemption (the legality of possession is, however, currently under dispute by the Supreme Court). However if you are caught with a small amount of cannabis in Vancouver it is extremely unlikely that you will be charged, in the vast majority of cases the police will simply ask you to move somewhere out of sight to finish up, or ignore the fact altogether.

  • Vancouver Sun, [52]. Vancouver's biggest daily newspaper.  edit
  • The Province, [53]. Tabloid-style daily. A bit more sensational than the Sun and a better sports section.  edit
  • Georgia Straight, [54]. Free weekly paper that provides the best rundown on local bars and other entertainment listings. It also usually has a number of two for one coupons for local restaurants.  edit

Other free weeklies include the Vancouver Courier, Westender, and Xtra West (gay and lesbian bi-weekly newspaper). Free dailies include 24 Hours and Metro.


There are a number of wireless network providers in BC's lower mainland, all with store locations throughout Vancouver, including Telus, Rogers, Fido, Bell, Koodo, and Virgin.

Religious services

Anglican (Episcopal):

  • Christ Church Cathedral, 690 Burrard St, +1 604 682-3848, [55].  edit


  • St. Andrew Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson St, +1 604 683-4574, [56].  edit


  • Holy Rosary Cathedral, 646 Richards St, +1 604 682-6774, [57].  edit
  • Vancouver General -- Located at the corner of Oak St and West 12th Ave, VGH serves as the main hospital and emergency ward for Vancouver
  • Children's Hospital -- If taking a child under the age of 18 to the E.R., you will be directed to Children's Hospital. It is located at Oak St near King Edward Avenue.
  • St. Paul's -- Located downtown, or in the City Centre, St. Paul's Hospital also has an emergency ward for adults but is smaller and therefore less equipped to handle many patients. Every winter, St. Paul's decorates the front of the Hospital with lights to encourage charitable donations.
  • Mount Saint Joseph Hospital - 3080 Prince Edward St. The only hospital on the city's East Side with an emergency room (8:30AM-8PM). Outside of these hours, people are asked to go to either Vancouver General or St. Paul's for emergency care.
  • UBC Urgent Care Centre -- Not quite a walk-in clinic but not quite an emergency room, the UBC UCC has limited hours (closed at 10PM, but is a good choice if your problem isn't an emergency -- it is basically a faster-paced walk-in clinics with longer hours.

There are also a number of walk-in clinics around Vancouver. Unfortunately waits are usually around 30-45 min for an appointment.

Get out

Nearby municipalities

There are a number of things to see and do just outside of Vancouver's borders. Some of the most popular are listed below. All of these places are accessible by public transit, or if you have a car, within an hour's drive.

  • North Shore - Take in the views from Grouse Mountain (a.k.a. The Peak of Vancouver), go for a walk on a suspension bridge or enjoy one of the many outdoor recreation opportunities -- hiking, mountain biking, skiing/snowboarding, kayaking -- on offer. The most popular summer activity in the area is hiking the 'Grouse Grind', a 2.9 kilometer, 853 meter elevation gain hike up the side of Grouse mountain.
  • West Vancouver - A municipality north of the Lion's gate bridge, enroute to Whistler. Home to many beaches, coves, parks and expensive real-estate, where breath-taking views of Vancouver can be scoped by driving its higher altitudes.
  • Burnaby - Shop till you drop at Metropolis at Metrotown, the largest shopping mall in British Columbia, or relax at one of the large regional parks.
  • Richmond - City with a large Asian influence with many options for Chinese, Japanese and Korean dining and shopping, the largest Buddhist temple in North America and the historic seaside Steveston towards the south offers a quieter, small-town type atmosphere.
  • White Rock - A 45 minute drive away from Vancouver, famous for its moderate climate and sandy beaches.
  • Fort Langley - Village with unique shops, restaurants and the site of one of the first forts built in British Columbia.
  • New Westminster - Small city on the banks of the Fraser River that was once the capital of British Columbia.
  • Bowen Island is a popular day trip or weekend excursion offering kayaking, hiking, shops, restaurants, and more. This authentic community is located in Howe Sound just off Vancouver, and is easily accessed via scheduled water taxis departing Granville Island in downtown Vancouver.
  • For those who enjoy outdoor activities, a trek up the Sea to Sky corridor is essential. Squamish has branded itself the "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada" and with an incredible amount of quality rock climbing, mountain biking, white water rafting, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, golf, walking trails and more, it certainly deserves the title. Squamish is about half way between Vancouver and Whistler. Whistler (2 hours drive from Vancouver) is mandatory. In the winter, enjoy some of the best Skiing in North America, and in the summer try some authentic mountain biking.
  • Another good spot for outdoor activities is Mount Baker across the border in Washington. Driving time is about three hours, but border line-ups can add anywhere from a few minutes to several hours onto your trip.
  • The nearby Fraser Valley has a number of parks and lakes that are nice for fishing, hiking or relaxing.
  • Vancouver Island is a good spot to move on to from Vancouver. Victoria, British Columbia's capital, is a relaxing place. Tofino is a pretty spot on the island's west coast, good for whale and storm watching and has some of Canada's best surf (if you can brave the cold water). The island is reached by ferry, seaplane and bus.
  • The Gulf Islands are also a short ferry ride or float plane flight away, providing a quiet and rural atmosphere of small, coastal towns, cabins and farms.
  • The Okanagan is a four to five hour drive east, with a large number of wineries, water activities in the summer and skiing in the winter.
  • The scenery of Banff, Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains is a long day's drive (8-9 hours) east.
  • To the south, the American city of Seattle is a three hour drive and Portland is a six hour drive (excluding any border line-up).


There are a couple of hop-on, hop-off bus tours based in Vancouver that allow you to explore Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest on your own schedule.

  • The Moose Travel Network [58] runs various adventure tourism tours covering Western Canada, including Vancouver Island, Whistler and the Rocky Mountains. Accommodation is at hostels and optional adventure activities include whitewater rafting, skydiving, horseback riding, bungee and more. Ski tours are also offered in the Winter.
  • West Trek [59] provides budget and deluxe tours to 7 destinations: The Rocky Moutains, Whistler, Victoria, Tofino, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland.
Routes through Vancouver
VictoriaNorth Shore  W noframe E  BurnabyKamloops
END  W noframe E  BurnabyHope
WhistlerNorth Shore  N noframe S  RichmondSeattle / Victoria (via )
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